Problem Statement: Since the law related to the inclusion of children with special needs was passed, the number of children with special needs in preschool classrooms has increased each year. Preschool teachers face serious challenges when they teach children with diverse abilities in the same environment. Although most of them support the idea of preschool inclusion, preschool teachers usually do not want children with special needs in their classrooms because of their lack of knowledge and skills regarding inclusive practices. It has been established that teachers are the most important component of inclusion, and in order to increase the success of inclusive practices, they should be prepared to teach in heterogeneous classrooms that include children with and without disabilities.
Purpose of Study: To develop and implement an effective and functional training program for inclusive preschool classroom teachers, we aimed to thoroughly examine the needs of preschool teachers with regard to supporting the development of children with disabilities in their classes.
Method: In the first part of our study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 teachers, and in the second part, in-depth interviews were held with four of the teachers from the first group. All of the teachers who participated in this study had one or more children with special needs in their classrooms. After completion of the interviews, the data from the two groups were analyzed separately.
Findings and Results:The analyses of both groups of data indicated that teachers mainly needed knowledge, skills, experience, and support when assessing the performance of children with special needs, working with their parents, preparing individualized education programs (IEPs), adapting and modifying their curriculum, and dealing with behavioral problems.
Conclusions and Recommendations:To make preschool inclusion successful and to have special needs children gain the expected benefits, teachers need to be provided with functional teacher training programs that foster positive attitudes and provide them with a meaningful experience. If preschool teachers in Turkey had access to these types of programs in both pre-service and in-service education, the quality of preschool inclusion would improve immensely.
Keywords: Preschool teachers, mainstreaming practices, needs, semi-structured interview